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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Wednesday
Sep102008

In Which We Are Always Traveling

Safari

by Camille Garcia

I’m stuck in rush-hour traffic on the 110 going north. It’s stop and go, as usual; I’m one of many in the sea of brake lights inching forward along the serpentine freeway.

For a minute, the crawling mass of the glowing lights reminds me of the stream of fire ants I nearly stepped on in a Ugandan jungle while tracking chimpanzees. I was looking up in the trees, hoping to be the first to spot a chimp, forgetting that the real danger was on the ground. My boyfriend Luke yanked me by the backpack—hard. God bless him and his absurdly cat-like reflexes. When I looked down, my foot was suspended an inch above a rushing river of the tiny beasts that could have eaten homegrown ants for breakfast.

A troop of fire ants similar to what we saw in the Ugandan jungle

“Do not anger the fire ants,” our guide had warned before our expedition. Well, leave it to me to come within an inch of getting killed, or at least close enough to incite an onslaught of stinging bites and an excruciating rash. Carefully, slowly, I tiptoed over the line of ants, wiped the sweat from my brow, and pressed on toward the thick of the jungle.

Exactly one year later, I’m stuck in the middle of an urban, concrete jungle, where prowling for a parking spot is as exhausting as prowling for apes, and, where memories of last summer’s journey in Uganda and Kenya have become utterly surreal. If it weren’t for the hundreds of photos I took, and the notes I scribbled on scraps of paper, every detail of those two weeks would have already vanished from memory. But even if names are forgotten and faces are obscured by time, what will endure—in absolute purity, unfettered from the stranglehold of the ticking clock —is the acute sense of freedom and joy that supplanted my fear and nervousness almost as soon as our plane touched down in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the early morning.

Chimp tracking in Uganda.

The sun was rising above the grassy hills, glinting off the morning dew. The land, the earth, was stunning. Somehow, someway, this city-girl was walking on East African soil.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Our first stop out of Addis Ababa was Nairobi, Kenya where we met up with the rest of our tour group led by Carrie, a free-spirited white woman—who preferred to hike barefoot—who had grown up on a farm in Zimbabwe.

After spending one night in Nairobi, our group embarked on our two-week expedition across Kenya and Uganda. We boarded a chartered bus along with local travelers carrying fruits and wares headed to Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest port-city that sits right on the banks of Lake Victoria. We arrived in the evening, eager to get to our hotel rooms and shower after an 8-hour drive. Of course, once Luke and I got to our room, there was the matter of arranging the mosquito nets and spraying everything down with Deet.

Mosquitoes, bats, and ants, oh my!

We took a nap under the netting, woken up by an unusual squeaking noise we traced to one of the air vents. My boyfriend and I stared at each other perplexed. A trapped mouse? I suggested. A squirrel? he thought. Are there squirrels in Africa? I asked. Maybe it’s a bat. We shuddered at the possibility and decided to leave our room.

On the rooftop of our hotel, we watched the sun set over Lake Victoria.

Orange cocktails and an African sunset

We wanted to drink beers, but because a Muslim family owned the hotel, they only had a type of orange-soda/cocktail for us to drink, which was delicious. The bottle is pictured. That evening, we found a restaurant four blocks from the hotel and stuffed ourselves with American fries, curries, pasta, chicken, and rice. In the mornings, we ate at the hotel’s cafe and chat with the hotel owner, while sipping on tea and nibbling on our toast and jam.

Kisumu for the most part was a peaceful city. The hum of motorbikes and mutatus, the chattering of people lingering in doorways, and children laughing while scratching pictures in the dirt were silenced only by the mosque calls at dusk.

Who would’ve imagined that in less than six months Kisumu would’ve been the epicenter of violent mobs and civil unrest following a controversial presidential election? Who would’ve imagined that this picturesque scene would be torn to shreds—the friendly and curious voices I heard that very moment—would be extinguished and silenced forever by the hands of angry dissidents?

To me, in my memory, Kisumu will always be this: a sunset over one of the world’s largest fresh-water lakes while calls to mosque sliced the air.

Going for a ride a boda boda. Conquering a ride like this—helmet-free—was my first step toward freedom.

fishermen on Lake Victoria

Two days later, we whispered goodbye to our pet bat and to Kisumu and headed back on the road for another eight-hour ride. This time, instead of traveling on a chartered bus, Carrie, our guide, arranged for mutatus to take us into neighboring Uganda—to get the true African experience, no doubt. The mini-vans were packed to maximum capacity, not only with members of our tour, but also with locals our driver insisted on picking up along the way. At one point, 18 people were packed in this mutatu.

Mutatus. I’m not sure if there’s a legal limit to the number of people who can fit into one of these.

And so there we were, Luke and I pinned to our seats, bouncing up and down the unpaved roads. With so many bodies in the van, it was crucial to have the windows down, which meant that the earth from the roads—rich with iron and blood red—would blow into our faces.

We passed through numerous towns, greeted by smiling children. Often they would shout at us and beg for our attention, and when we waved, they would jump up and down and collapse onto the ground. During one of our pit stops, we went to play with children who showed off their perfect cartwheels.

A Ugandan town

A couple of times, we spotted roaming baboons. This was the first wild animal we saw and I took about a hundred pictures of these baboons alone.

Baboons in our path

By the time we arrived in Jinja—a one-night stop on our way to Murchison Falls—our faces were caked with soil. It was everywhere: under our fingernails, in our ears, in our hair. A shower never sounded so good. I assume several of the older members of our group complained about the mutatus because for the rest of the trip, Carrie had us ride in a private bus/Winnebago.

Five showers and one night later, we proceeded northbound to Murchison Falls where we would embark on our first safari. We didn’t have an exact idea of where we would be staying, but Carrie assured us it would be the most pleasant stay yet. Several hours into the trip, we went off road, heading deeper into open fields and toward the sun.

The sun was already beginning to set, as we pulled into the gravel driveway of the Nile Safari Lodge. Carrie hadn’t done the place justice. Each traveling pair had their own cabin overlooking the Nile River, and we had arrived just in time to watch the indigo light envelope the sun.

view of the Nile River from our cabin deck

The night of our arrival, our tour group ate a luxurious dinner outdoors beneath a canopy. Afterward, we took our beers to the campfire and continued to chat while Carrie played her guitar. I was mystified by the velvet black sky, glowing with a million stars. I knew it was the same sky as in Los Angeles, but in Africa, it was unlike any sky that I had ever seen.

One by one, everyone retreated to their cabins. A family of monkeys lived in the trees surrounding our cabin. At night we laid awake, listening to them scamper on the railings of the deck, along with the croaking of frogs and the grunting of hippos below us at the riverbank. This is what life sounded like away from the cities, in the pure heart of Mother Nature.

It occurred to me then that I hadn’t checked my e-mail in days. I shrugged, and wiggled further into my sleeping bag. Two weeks in the wilderness, two weeks spent reveling in the simplicity of the earth, was the remedy I had been seeking to ten years spent on the go. I moved slower. I breathed easier. I felt that I could take my time.

Everyone was bustling with excitement the next morning as we prepared to head out on our first safari. We drove into Uganda’s national park, where we picked up one of the park’s rangers who led us on the safari.

At first, we saw nothing but the usual antelopes and gazelles. But then…

This safari beat any old trip to the zoo; especially the Los Angeles Zoo, where most of the animals are either hidden from view, behind bars, or too lethargic to move or do anything interesting.

As I watched the giraffes saunter majestically from tree to tree, I couldn’t help but hum the theme song to The Lion King. Pretty soon, we were humming “Circle of Life.”

Most of us weren’t satisfied, however. We were still waiting to witness the great wildebeest migration and track lions in the Masai Mara. And for that, we’d have to wait a few more days.

After two days on safari in Murchison Falls, we braced ourselves for city life. Destination: Kampala, Uganda’s capital where plainclothes officers carry AK-47’s like they were briefcases.

Driving into Kampala, Uganda.

Kampala is a buzzing city. There are tons of outdoor markets where people sell fresh meat and poultry, vegetables, and grains; mutatus hastily weave around each other on the roads; boda bodas speed by pedestrians without any discretion; and at night, American hip-hop (and if you’re lucky, Reggaeton) can be heard streaming outside hidden nightclubs.

Most of the people kept to themselves, save for the few we met while walking around the souvenir markets who were eager to hear about where we came from and how we liked Kampala. The best part of Kampala, we had to admit, was finding a fast food joint where Luke and I indulged in fried chicken. We ate everything we were given. Fried chicken just sounded so good by then.

We made out like bandits at the local souvenir shops, trying to pick out stuff that looked the least mass-produced. Probably made in China, someone suggested. I’d spent the entire summer in Asia, studying China’s history, politics, and economy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had found a market in Africa for souvenirs.

After Kampala, it was back to Jinja, where our tour group would go white-water rafting on the Nile River. At this announcement, I looked over at my boyfriend, my face contorted with the urge to cry.

I consider myself adventurous up to a certain point: I like to keep my feet on stable ground. Where was my say? I’d sooner go horseback riding, or visit an orphanage. Luke reassured me that we’d be going on the Level 3 rapids. Then he kissed my forehead. I reluctantly agreed.

On the day of the big excursion, not only did I find out that we’d be rafting along 26km of the Nile River, but that we weren’t talking about Level 3 baby waves. Somehow, I got sucked into the Level 5 group—one step below Level 6, which only kayaks can maneuver. My boyfriend knew this all along. I didn’t talk to him for about twenty minutes until our rafting guides played a video for us. The pounding water, the soundtrack of heavy metal, the whole badass-ness of it all got me pumped. My heart was racing with anticipation. Flipping over was not a question. I wanted to flip over into the roaring waves.

“If I die, you can have my iPod, honey.”

Twelve rapids (including one waterfall), five flips, one near-death experience, one excruciating sunburn, and 26km later, I was back on solid land and already making plans to go again and try skydiving when I got back home.

The seven of us couldn’t stay still. To celebrate our safe return, we drank more than enough beers to ease our sore muscles while being jostled about in the bed of a truck. We headed back to the launch site where other tourists were hanging out, eating dinner, and waiting for nightfall. When the DJ blasted “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, we couldn’t help but dance and sing our hearts out.

We had already spent a week and a half in Africa at this point, and our trip was winding down. The day after we conquered the Nile River, our group headed back to Kenya for our final safari.

Yes, we followed those arrows right upstairs into a room that looked like it belong in Aladdin’s palace.

We spent 11 hours on the road this time, spending one night in Narok. Luckily, rooms were available right above this butchery. Meat hooks and beef hanging in the windows, the stench of blood, and flies is all I have to say about Narok.

Finally, we made it to the border of the Masai Mara where we spotted Masai warriors on patrol along with children herding cows.

Our camping site was a ways in. Naturally, baboon and wild boar loitered around our tents. We unloaded our gear before catching a ride in the safari vehicles to track lions. This safari was unlike our first safari…

I felt my own insignificance beneath this sky. I felt an air of purity. I let my fingers sink into the soft, undefiled earth.

We found our lions. This one is resting on a full stomach of wildebeest, the remains of which we spotted a few feet away.

Graceful and proud.

It takes extreme experiences to reawaken our wonder of this place we call Earth, and it’s important that we don’t lose that sense of intrigue. Without it we cease to be human.

We met with the Masai warriors the following day. The chief’s son, a boy of about 17 years, explained their customs and showed us around his village. This would be our last day in the Masai Mara before we headed back to Nairobi for our last night in Africa. We made sure to buy those colorful blankets before we left.

Exactly one year later, I am here now, stuck in traffic. Africa seems like such a faraway place now.

It’s difficult to fight the city and the way it sucks you into its cold grasp. I’ve resumed my daily rituals and bad habits: checking email every minute or two, browsing Facebook, making plans, spending too much time tethered to my computer desk, and driving—confined in my capsule—to and fro, back and forth, here and there.

I adjust my rearview mirror, the cluster of skyscrapers come into view. There isn’t a hint of mystery to enthrall me, only the superficial beauty of the iconic Los Angeles skyline, shimmering in the orange glow of the setting sun. It sparkles. It dazzles. The phone rings. Cars honk. Hip-hop thumps out of rolled down car windows. The memory of Africa fades for the time being.

But if I can help it, I try to retain that sense of freedom, balance, and peace I experienced for two weeks in Africa. I roll down all the windows, open the sunroof, blast my music as loud as I can stand, and sing until all the city noise fades away and there’s only me—a speck beneath the sky, heading home.

Camille Garcia is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. Camille is a writer living in Los Angeles. She spends her free time reading travel magazines and discussing choices for their next destination with Luke.

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Give her access to everything.

The fourteen year old virgin.

The counter levels.

Tuesday
Aug052008

In Which It Begins And Ends With The Fish

Tsukiji

by Brian DeLeeuw

The tuna auctions at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market start around 5:30AM, but the market’s already been active for hours. The bluefin carcasses are displayed on raised pallets, six or seven to a pallet, about thirty pallets lined up across the frigid hall’s concrete floor. And these are inarguably carcasses, dead animals not yet refigured as food, their bellies slit, their tails chopped off and stuffed into their open mouths. Licensed buyers stroll through the rows in the hour before the auction starts, prying open the bellies with long-shafted hooks and peering inside with industrial flashlights. An especially thorough buyer swabs at a severed tail with his forefinger and samples the goods, chewing thoughtfully, and then, just as at the NYSE or any other heavyweight site of exchange, the opening bell rings and it begins.

Auctioneers lead their customers from fish to fish, business conducted through rapid-fire yelling and coded hand-signals, the buyer’s ID slapped up on each tuna’s flank with blood-red ink.

Workers cart purchases out to the labyrinthine city of stalls sprawling beyond the auction hall, where – amongst sea slugs, tiger prawns, giant scallops, fugu (blowfish), and hundreds of other species – they will be dismantled with three-foot long magurobocho knives or, for the frozen torsos, massive band saws.

The tuna have arrived from as close as Hokkaido and as far as Boston; they could be headed to a sushi bar on the other side of the parking lot or back across two oceans to New York City. Over fifty tons of tuna have changed hands. The whole process takes less than half an hour.

There is no one way of looking at Tsukiji; even familiar binaries – tradition vs. modernization, overt chaos vs. hidden order, the local vs. the global, the grotesque vs. the beautiful – oversimplify despite their modicum of truth.

Also a simplification, but one I will stand by, is that Tsukiji is a triumph of the visceral and the immediate over the denatured and the vague. Its panoply of sea creatures – circling in fish tanks, flopping in sawdust, or diced and filleted on steel platters – annihilate our often abstracted relationship to what we eat.


The original meaning of the word “market” – an actual physical place for the exchange of goods, rather than a vast and nebulous system of pricing – declares itself in every puddle of brine, every mouthful of diesel fuel and secondhand smoke.

But before we go any further, the facts. (All statistics taken from Theodore C. Bestor’s excellent Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World (University of California Press, 2004).) About $19.4 million worth of seafood is traded here every day, adding up to a yearly total that’s usually around $5 billion.

Each working day sees well over two million kilograms (almost five million pounds) of goods change hands – that’s roughly 600 kilograms per year. This is more than seven times the volume and five times the value of trade at New York’s Fulton Fish Market, the world’s second largest seafood market. (At least in the one year in recent times – 1996 – that Fulton’s normally closed books were opened, due to Mob-related federal racketeering charges.)

Seven large auction houses employing approximately 700 auctioneers sell 450 “major” species and varieties of seafood – over 2,000 if you count sub-varieties – to about 900 licensed wholesalers and 375 authorized traders.

The traders buy in bulk for outside customers like restaurant chains and supermarkets, while the wholesalers operate 1,667 stalls lined up cheek-to-jowl along narrow, manically-trafficked alleys, selling on the spot to sushi chefs, restaurateurs, fishmongers, and assorted other regulars.

The market occupies over two-million square feet of mostly landfill (Tsukiji literally means “built land”) on the banks of the Sumida River in central Tokyo. About 50,000 people come to the market six mornings a week, and nobody there cares if you are number 50,001.

The basic indifference to your presence as an interloper feels both polite and remarkable. The obvious reason is that people are too busy to be either solicitous or hostile; there is much to do and very little time in which to do it. I was only spoken to when a workman accidentally knocked a twenty-foot tower of thankfully empty Styrofoam containers onto my head.

He gave a brief bark of a laugh, then said something probably along the lines of “That’s not a good place to stand.” But there is no good place to stand because everywhere, no matter how narrow the passageway or remote the corner, is fair game for the “turrets,” three-wheeled motorized carts with a vertical, cylindrical steering column (hence the name) at which drivers stand, squinting through cigarette smoke as they execute NASCAR-caliber maneuvers in the clotted cobblestone alleys.

The clearances between carts and stalls, carts and pedestrians, and, especially, carts and other carts are rarely more than a few inches. The visitor’s primary responsibility is to eschew unpredictable swerves and pauses; travel straight lines or just stand stock-still as the turrets zip pass, and you’ll be fine.

What you’ll survive to see among Tsukiji’s 1,667 stalls is the mind of an ichthyologist (or malacologist – look it up, I had to) turned inside out, flaunting its wild knowledge to the world. Clutches of boiled octopi float in bins like red, angry brains in formaldehyde. Dried squids are stacked like dirty laundry. Sardines shimmer in tightly-packed cartons, and lobsters squirm around in sawdust like toddlers in a sandpit. At one of the countless eel stalls, a wholesaler slaps each writhing specimen onto the cutting board, impales it through the eye with a hook, and deposits it into a bin to rest with its brethren in a soup of their own blood.

But the most impressive sight must be the slicing up of the bluefin tuna fresh from auction. The wholesalers wielding their magurobocho – knives in name only, these look more like samurai swords – are highly trained, and how could they not be? One false cut could ruin the fish, and this is expensive shit, sometimes reaching up to $52 per pound for a particularly excellent bluefin. The knives glide through the thick flesh as though it were tofu, and in a few strokes dead fish are transformed into slabs and strips of ruby-red food, priced and displayed under glass like precious jewels.

It’s a brutal scene, but the careful ritual of this transformation from animal to food complicates any ethically-minded vegetarian crusade, a cause for which the mantras of disrespect for animals and environmental degradation are often invoked. It is easy to say we are behaving callously, perhaps even immorally, towards chickens forced to live out their short lives in cramped cages full of their own shit or dolphins drowned for having the nerve to get caught up in albacore tuna nets.

(Although any Japanese whaler would argue that the moral difference between the West’s aggressively anthropomorphic dolphin and our dull lump of a tuna is largely a culturally constructed one.)

It is less easy to accuse a free-range pig farmer or a devoted elk hunter of animal abuse or ignorance, and it is less easy still to direct these charges at Tsukiji’s tuna wholesalers, who describe the very act of cutting the flesh as maguro no kaiwa (“the conversation of the tuna”), or at the auction buyers, who can assess a bluefin’s health and much of its history with a few glances and gentle palpations.

In short, no one loves fish more than a fisherman. One reason for this is the daily intimacy that leads, in most cases, not to contempt but to appreciation. Another reason, of course, is that everyone in the business depends upon the continuing sustainability of seafood for their livelihoods, which is the impetus for a kind of pragmatic environmentalism.

Two years ago, while doing research for a magazine article, I interviewed the head chefs of a few of Manhattan’s priciest seafood-centric restaurants. (No one fetishizes fish more than a French chef.) The ostensible purpose of the interviews was to identify the factors that produce the “trendy” fish of a given moment – the Chilean sea bass of the 90s or the miso-glazed black cod of the early 2000s – but all they wanted to talk about was preservation and responsible fishing. Most thought mandated fishing bans were often too little, too late, and instead they opted to self-police.

As one put it, we can have unlimited red snapper now and none at all very soon, or we can fish it responsibly now and eat it sparingly forever.

To argue that all fishermen or restaurateurs are as committed to the long-term good would be naïve, but here at Tsukiji a recognition of at least the karmic cost of fishing is evident in the six stone monuments at the Nami-yoke Shrine, just outside the marketplace’s Kaiko Bridge entrance. These monuments honor the sacrifice of fish in the service of human cuisine. (Well, five do; the last is for the eggs that are also used in some sushi preparations).

As Bestor writes of the memorials in his authoritative study of the market: “People in the seafood trade know full well that fish die so that humans may eat, and Japanese Buddhism and folk belief not only posit a consequence of this (that the innocent dead may harm the living) but also provide a means to atone and avoid retribution.”

It’s doubtful that a carved slab of stone and a pragmatic – some would say selfish – interest in seafood sustainability is enough for the hard-line vegetarian or environmentalist. But such gestures at least indicate an awareness of the source and, for lack of a less squishy term, spirit of our food, something citizens of the post-industrial world often lack.

I, however, am not one of those hard-line vegetarians, and so it would have been madness to have left Tsukiji without sampling the product of all this complicated interplay between cultural traditions, economic imperatives, and environmental concerns.

In other words, I wanted to eat sushi for breakfast. This wasn’t a problem: a narrow street on the far side of an endless, buzzing parking lot houses at least half a dozen tiny sushi bars, all already packed and some with two-hour waits at 7:30 a.m.

It was also Saturday, which meant that many of the patrons were young and either still drunk or newly hungover, here direct from the glitzy nightspots of the neighboring Ginza district. The bitter February cold quickly drove me and my girlfriend into one of the less trafficked establishments offering only a fifteen minute wait for seats at the ten-person bar.

Freezing and shipping technologies have discredited the seafood maxim that freshness requires proximity to the catch, as the globalized selection at Tsukiji itself demonstrates. However, doing your daily sushi business in the market’s shadow does ensure quality connections, as well as the necessity of pleasing a demanding clientele.

Our breakfast proved it: the omakase of toro (tuna belly), tuna, salmon, octopus, squid, tamago (sweet egg omelet), sweet shrimp, “normal” shrimp, salmon roe, scallop, mackerel, and an unidentifiable white fish that sounded like hake but wasn’t, all washed down with miso soup and green tea, was truly excellent and, at ¥2,800, less than half of what it would cost in New York.

Authenticity is a concept almost always invoked by an outsider, an inauthentic person. So for me to expound upon the virtues of eating sushi at the world’s biggest fish market surrounded by happy drunks, sushi snobs, and Korean tourists, with those crazy turret carts whizzing by and the early-morning sun shining through the window, and to frame the event as some sort of authentic echt-Japanese experience: this would be naïve, probably a bit patronizing, and definitely the sentiments of a typical golly-gee gaijin. Well, fuck it. The market was singular and astonishing. The sushi breakfast was delicious. I loved every minute of that morning, and, like any good tourist, I have the digital photos to prove it.

Brian DeLeeuw is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find his previous work here, here, here, here, and here. He writes frequently on travel and food for CITY magazine. His writing has also appeared in New York, Tin House, and New York Press. His novel In This Way I Was Saved is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in the spring of next year.

All original photography by Brian DeLeeuw and Alex Cooley.

YOUR FISH MARKET SOUNDTRACK

"Mer Du Japon (Teenagers remix)" - Air (mp3)

"Fisherman" - The Congos (mp3)

"Girl and the Sea (Cut Copy remix)" - The Presets (mp3)

"Girl and the Sea" - The Presets (mp3)

"Please" - Ikonika (mp3)

"Life's a Beach! (Todd Terje remix)" - Studio (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

We're in business. It's a business.

Keith Gessen and Tyler Coates.

The glory of Jayne Mansfield.

Wednesday
Jul302008

In Which Stalin Is The Biggest Goy We Can Think Of

Some Out of The Way Corner of the Universe

by Alex Carnevale

Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Times standards editor (you wouldn't even know they had one) wrote an e-mail to Times staffers requesting reporters not display the paraphernalia of any candidate in this November's election.

Since we cannot imagine any reason a conservative would work at the only newspaper more liberal than the Daily Worker, they meant Obama stickers.

Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous.

Instead of correcting the serious problem of total homogenity in their newsroom, they just fire more Dems and hire more Dems. "The press must grow day in and day out — it is our Party's sharpest and most powerful weapon," Stalin once said.

By keeping their affiliations private, reporters bring shameful cowardice to the fore instead of honesty and openness. The public should have the choice, not the paper.

For one of the most important newspapers in the world - a paper whose correction rate is slightly lower than Mad magazine - there is the shining monument to their newspeak: Pravda. The Times admires, wishes to be Pravda. It served the cause well, and that is the best that can be said about it. Howell Raines' description of the institution he led makes it sound even more repressive than Pravda in its heyday. (He fought for more Britney, if you were wondering.)

We should only wish the editors of the Times were as free-thinking as the editors of Pravda when Joseph Stalin led the editorial board.


On some topics in Wikipedia, our most important cultural newspaper, evil but powerful figures are given the sheen of achievement because of their place on the grand stage. The contribution to the Josef Stalin entry has the unknowing Times-ian polish - a glowing sense of admiration for the Georgian-born dictator comes through loud and clear.

Like Hitler, Stalin was a failed artist. The worst kind: a poet.

When I am gone, the capitalists will drown you like blind kittens.

The beauty of the democratic system is that is prizes popularity over deviousness. The Soviet system was like high school - the same basic message as a workshop from Mystery - he who was most charming and evil won the day.

The ascension of Lenin, the dictatorship of Stalin, the Second World War. He assembled a nation that would consume its people.

But what a life! Banging thirteen year olds, killing his wife. Killing millions of wives. He stole a nation; and he stole other nations. He coddled Germany, then promoted a patriotic war against it. This is what is so admiring in his wikipedia profile - the balls on this goy!

A sincere diplomat is like dry water or wooden iron.

Our contemporary Stalinism exists in those who would willingly concede a right. Why must we contribute our earnings to the government, the Politburo, to Robin Hood? Stalin was unemployed. Constantly exiled. He was the benefactor of thousands giving up the right of what to do with the money they earn.

What shall we do? We shall envy!

When we play God, and appeal to a sense of cosmic justice, we abdicate the only responsibility a government has - to make its citizens free, not to make some freerer than others.

stalin's first wife


If the Soviet Union didn't exist, we'd have to invent it.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls hard for cash money here.

I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of History will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy.

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?

ENJOY STALIN'S FAV

shostakovich and stalin

We think that powerful and lifeful movement is impossible without differences — "true conformity" is possible only in the cemetery.

"Eyes Wide Shut" - Dmitri Shostakovich (mp3)

STAMP OUT THE REVOLUTION BEFORE IT STARTS

"Time To Send Someone Away" - Jose Gonzalez (mp3)

"Teardrop" - Jose Gonzalez (mp3)

"Cycling Trivialities" - Jose Gonzalez (mp3)

"How Low" - Jose Gonzalez (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Molly’s a mindfreak.

Why we are the way that we are.

Frank O’Hara was the man.

Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.

Tuesday
Jul222008

In Which Georgia Puts A Prayer In The Wailing Wall

This is our first entry in our series on parents. You can find the second entry here.

Look How Happy They Were

by GEORGIA HARDSTARK

For the first few years of my parents' marriage, from about 1970 until 1975, they lived in a small one-bedroom apartment off San Vicente Blvd. behind Pioneer Chicken, in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles. My mother had grown up in a duplex a stones' throw from their new apartment, and my parents had met while attending Fairfax High, a mere five minutes drive. In case you were wondering, that Pioneer Chicken on Olympic Blvd. has been a Pioneer Chicken forever...at least for as long as my mother can remember.

When they were both 29 years old, they decided to move to Israel. I'm sure it was more than just deciding to up and move to Israel - but from my perspective, and from the stories I've heard since I was a small child, that's how I always envisioned it.

As it turns out, my father wanted to make an Aliyah, which is basically a return to the 'promised land'...a sort of pilgrimage.

As for my mother, when I asked her why she went, she shrugged and said "I wanted an adventure...and I believed in your father's dream." Did I detect a hint of bitterness in her voice? It's hard to say. While we were flipping through the photo albums last night, trying to find a few good pictures for this story, she was nothing but thoughtful sighs and "look at how happy we were"s.

From their home in Los Angeles, where both their families lived, where they had jobs and friends and lives and history, they moved to the Negev desert and onto a moshav (a cooperative agricultural community) called Sde Nitzan. There, they had a house, as well as their own glasshouse for growing tomatoes, which were combined with those grown by the other community members and sold in the city.

After two years of living in Israel, and a year and a half of trying but failing to get pregnant with their first child, my parents took two steps to increase their chances of reproducing.

The first logical thing was to go to a doctor that came highly recommended by a neighbor on the moshav. The doctor was an Australian woman practicing in Beersheba, and she prescribed them a series of “exercises” aimed at increasing fertility.

As their child, I am forced to conclude that those exercises weren’t anything other than push-ups and some light weight lifting, and not any kind of “exercises” that constituted being naked with each other…shudder.

In the three months between being prescribed these exercises, and becoming pregnant with my brother, my parents made an Aliyah to Jerusalem for Passover.

During the long drive, my mother tells me, my parents spotted a lone stork while driving through the desert. Once in Jerusalem, my father put a prayer in the Wailing Wall (a traditional practice among Jews who visit) asking God for a child.

Enter my brother, Asher (which means “blessing” in Hebrew).

We sat together in her living room last night, looking through old photo albums and periodically peeling a photograph from the pages with the intention of scanning it into the computer later. I had my shoes off with my legs tucked underneath me, and I would occasionally scribble furiously in my notebook when she answered a question that popped into my head. She absentmindedly flipped through an old album whose pictures were yellowing and stuck to the pages with glue that was older than I am.

I asked her if she thought moving to Israel had made her and my father closer. Having been divorced from my father since I was five years old, after 15 years of marriage, I don’t know how I expected her to answer.

Was that question asked by my five year old self, who still hoped her parents would realize how silly they were being, and get back together?

Or was it asked by the somewhat jaded girl I’ve become, who had returned from her own failed pilgrimage (albeit to a much less intimidating location than Israel) only a year before, and now knew that moving somewhere isolated with the man you love is more apt to put strain on the relationship than it is to bring you closer.

She was quiet for a long time. At first I thought she was contemplating the question. She’s always been the type of person to think before she speaks, but enough time had elapsed that I thought maybe she hadn’t heard me, and I was about to ask again when she let out one of her familiar sighs.

Having inherited this trait from her, I knew that she had just conjured up, from the very depths of her psyche, all that she felt those 30 years ago, and was now audibly releasing it before answering my question.

"There were angry moments…and there were especially endearing moments." She was crying just a little.

Her parents came to visit after Asher was born. My mother was the baby of the family, the youngest daughter out of four, and important enough that, although terrified, my grandparents took their first transatlantic flight to meet their new grandchild…the first time either had been overseas since escaping Eastern Europe as children.

What my mother couldn’t know was that this would be the last time she would see her father…my grandfather, the man I’m named after.

A little over two years after moving to living in Israel, my parents decided to go home. According to my mom, they preferred the 'American way of life', and that’s what they wanted to provide to their new son. My mother also missed her family, and after my grandparents' visit, she saw the benefits of having them close by.

So with a seven month old baby in tow, my parents took a 4 day ride on a Greek ferry from Haifa through the Mediterranean, ending in Venice.

From there they drove through Italy, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and finally flew to New York out of Belgium.

They stayed with one of my mother’s older sisters (my aunt Heb) in New York. When I was little, my mom told me that late one night, while getting into bed in the guest room of my aunt’s house, my mother heard her father yell out her name. She demonstrated how he sounded, and it gave me chills. This was impossible, of course, as my grandfather was at home in Los Angeles, but she ran to the window anyway and looked onto the street for him. She shrugged it off as her imagination, and went to bed.

My grandpa George died that night in Los Angeles. They returned to Los Angeles for good after that.

Georgia Hardstark is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find more of her accomplished musings at The State That I Am In. She also tumbls here.

 

Monday
Jul212008

In Which We Discuss The Pressing Problem of the Masses

55,000's a Crowd

by Alex Carnevale

Sometimes in a crowd there is an eye of the storm, where you are coexisting equitably with the rest of the world.

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But for the most part we seem intent on being closer together to one another than common decency dictates.

My friend Bernard is planning on dumping his new roommates, an unsightly couple. Apparently they correct his behavior.

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For the past year I've commuted two hours each day to my job. For three more weeks anyway, I'll ride a bus, an N train, an E train, a LIRR train, and a small shuttle to work. It's a maddening ritual which I have broken down into a caffeine fueled descent into the farthest depths of empathy one can imagine.

At times I have drifted deep into the plight of a woman and her recurring retarded son. A man gets on at Forest Hills and off at Woodside, a short journey, but why? I have seen Long Island trash sparkle in its infinite human and garbagey variety. I've seen a man's balls, a woman asleep on the ground, and more Ranger fans that one can reasonably stomach.

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I find myself violating the treaty of peace from time to time. And I'm also useful as a target for directions, and also outright sympathy. "I understand." Someone is always apologizing to me, and I am never sure quite why.

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Since I am always test engaging with everything, it chooses to engage me back.

Coming back from Yankee Stadium on Friday night, we stood in line to pack it in. I've never stayed to the bare end of a baseball game before, and I couldn't imagine why the ample crowd would want to. We stood in line to stand in line. An older man handed a younger man $10 for his seat. I told the younger man he was unethical and he and the older man exchanged eskimo kisses.

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Ahead of me was my friend Jeff who is getting married to a lovely young woman.

I poked my head throught the cars to tell him, "I won't be going home with you."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

WISDOM OF THE MASSES

Jewish American sagas

alanis morrisette a plastic surgery victim?

gail collins is a tool

nfl player IQ by position played

kirsten wii in GQ:

celebrating Danish's birthday

Viral bait, a video you shld see

it's torture seriously you guys

libeskind not manly enough

gillian reagan on moustaches

The upside of album leaks

i think i love my wife

tess in the future

a-rod madonne sex tape

lambo's aquarium

how mccain could win

alexis bledel is killin' it

stage names in the new york times

who gawks at the gawkers?

living alone: a study

kay ryan named poet laureate

the color line online

ellenclare

why batman could exist

cage:

On one occasion, Schoenberg asked a girl in his class to go to the piano and play the first movement of a Beethoven sonata, which was afterwards to be analyzed. She said, “It is too difficult. I can’t play it.” Schoenberg said, “You’re a pianist, aren’t you?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Then go to the piano.” She did. She had no sooner begun playing than he stopped her to say that she was not playing at the proper tempo. She said that if she played at the proper tempo, she would make mistakes. He said, “Play at the proper tempo and do not make mistakes.” She began again, and he stopped her immediately to say that she was making mistakes. She then burst into tears and between sobs explained that she had gone to the dentist earlier that day and that she’d had a tooth pulled out. He said, “Do you have to have a tooth pulled out in order to make mistakes?”

pitchfork's overlooked albums of 2008

is barack in charge of campaign obama?

crossing 7th avenue at 3am

britt @ pitchfork

thumbwrestlinginbaltimore

ten things to know about murakami

interpreter speaks up for migrants

jessicalouise

alex balk on nonsociety

creepy militarization

claire danes lookin' good in a bikini

MUSIC FOR STANDING OUT IN CROWDS

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"Free Money" - Patti Smith (mp3)

"Gloria" - Patti Smith (mp3)

"Kimberly" - Patti Smith (mp3)

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"Reminders of Then" - Kimya Dawson (mp3)

"Stinky Stuff" - Kimya Dawson (mp3)

"Rocks with Holes" - Kimya Dawson (mp3)

"That's All For Everyone" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

"Sara" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

"Save Me a Place" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

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PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.

Me keeping Danish and Molly happy.

The blue streak.